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John 6:31 New King James Version (NKJV)

31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”[a]

In the following text Christ accuses the Jews as referring to Moses in the issue of bread from heaven

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

In the NKJV the footnotes refer to this as a quote from Exodus 16,Nehemiah 9,& Psalms 78' which clearly points to God as the referent.

Exodus 16:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.

Nehemiah 9:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, And brought them water out of the rock for their thirst, And told them to go in to possess the land Which You had sworn to give them.

Psalm 78:22-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation. 23 Yet He had commanded the clouds above, And opened the doors of heaven, 24 Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven.

The context is clear that they were referring to God,so how does Christ say they were referring to Moses as the provider of the heavenly bread?

  • It's not a matter of the Scriptures referring to God instead of Moses, but that the context of their quoting Scripture was that they wanted Jesus to act like the new Moses: "6:30–31. The crowd still wants him to act as the new Moses they expect—on an earthly, political level. Many Jewish people expected manna to be restored in the world to come." Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 6:30–31). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. – Perry Webb Apr 26 '18 at 8:55
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I believe the immediate context of the verse tells us that the Jews were referring to God.

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

In this passage, the Jews ask Christ about doing the works of God. Since they are of the Old Covenant, they assume that the kingdom is attained via their good works. Jesus responds via New Testament truth, He says believe, speaking of salvation through grace/faith. So Christ is highlighting the difference between the physical (manna, Law of Moses, good works) and the spiritual (eternal life through faith).

In verse 30, the Jews then ask Him for a sign so they can see and believe since they are stuck on the physical. The Jews are referencing Exodus 16:15; (Moses referring to the manna):

15 “…and Moses said unto them, this is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”

If you read the rest of John 6, we can see that Christ was speaking spiritually and the Jews were speaking physically. Christ was confronting the Jews on the fact that the Law of Moses could never save them. Manna is a metaphor for the old life via the Law of Moses and the Commandments. Christ is speaking of the New Covenant.

That is why He uses the phrase in verse 32, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven…”

Here we see Jesus makes reference to the “bread from heaven” which Jesus claims to be as He says in verse 51; “I am the living bread which came down from heaven…”

Jesus had previously made the point in verse 49:

49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

So, we can see clearly that Christ was talking metaphorically, the difference between the manna (which only could sustain physical life) and the Word of God (Christ via faith) which can give spiritual (eternal) life. Moses did not give them the bread of life (akin to Word of God or Christ), meaning that the Law of Moses could never give them eternal life.

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Much is made in Trinitarian apologetic of the coincidence of the things God does and the things Jesus does. This is viewed as a critical support for the dogma of Trinity. However, as we see in the example of Moses that what God does through or in cooperation with his agent he does himself. So it was legitimate to speak of Moses giving them bread or God giving them bread just as it is legitimate to speak of the Christ doing various things that are also attributed to God.

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